Breaking News: Controversy, Conspiracy, and Conflict as Dan Rather Speaks at NYU


The panel discussion at the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute among media all-stars Dan Rather, New York Times Managing Editor Jill Abramson, Associated Press President Tom Curley, and PressThink blogger Jay Rosen proved to be a fascinating and exciting event.  The discussion touched upon the topics of “The First Amendment, the Freedom of the Press, and the Future of Journalism,” and each member of the panel offered a distinct and profound perspective.
That is not to say that there weren’t moments of tension, and even a couple when it got downright ugly.
When the discussion was opened up to questions from the audience, a man – somewhat curiously- ran to the microphone to be first in line.  Well, it turns out he had a motive: he introduced himself as a representative of (warning: beware of extremism), and launched into a series of accusations against Rather.  He began with, “Mr. Rather, on September 11, 2001 you claimed…” and continued confronting Rather about his apparent statement regarding the possibility of bombs in the World Trade Center attacks.  The audience quickly began to murmur, and moderator Gil Klein attempted to interrupt the speaker.  Rather said, “I’m sorry, I don’t hear a question in this.”  Finally the man asked, “Mr. Rather do you believe those statements you said?”  Rather responded that they were not a “belief” he held, but simply an observation he made.  He ended by saying, “I’m not sure how this question relates to the topic of this panel discussion.”  The man was not satisfied, and continued to shout at Rather, even as he was being pushed away from the microphone. 
Dan Rather

Dan Rather

The shocked panel and audience had barely recovered when a second man approached the microphone.  He asked the panel about the elusive and controversial Bilderberg Group, again launching into an attack regarding conspiracy theories.  The panel chose to ignore the question, though the man continued to ask more pressingly, declaring, “Whenever I try to talk about it, I get death threats!”  Abramson finally broke the silence, stating that she knew of the group but did not wish to discuss it at the panel.


The discussion moved on, with Rosen comparing established mainstream journalists to a “tribe,” and Rather responding, “Had I known we were a tribe, I would have brought my headdress and my wigwam.”  But the analogy proved effective in describing the journey of traditional media “migrating across the river to the promised land” where new media already resides.  Clever.

Interestingly, Rather refuted claims that the newspaper is dying, pointing out that the same argument was made in the advent of radio, and then again in the advent of television.  The newspaper has survived the development of new technology, and so it will survive this time, he argued.  Yet one is still left feeling like newspapers will have to adapt like never before to make it through these latest obstacles.

Though he originally entered the panel seeming like the underdog, Rosen ended up having the last word, offering hope that professional and amateur journalists (pro-am) can someday work together in the media.

Even when the discussion officially concluded, the drama continued: the two infamous conspiracy theorists/question hijackers had brought cameras, and followed the panel members as they headed for the elevators.  They proceeded to harass them and ask them questions regarding their respective conspiracies.  An NYU facility employee suddenly exploded at one of the men, spitting on him and slapping his camera.  Then both men attempted to escape down the emergency exit stairs, before being chased and yelled at by NYU employees.  Meanwhile, Rather and his assistants disappeared into one of the elevators.  Even though the tactless conspiracy theorists kind of deserved it, there’s a good chance that the angry NYU employee will get in trouble for this.

It looks like freedom of speech was certainly the focus of this eventful night!



4 responses to “Breaking News: Controversy, Conspiracy, and Conflict as Dan Rather Speaks at NYU

  1. great description of the event. Is there video we can watch online?

  2. Mazza, always on top of his game…

  3. Pingback: NYU Employee Spits on 9/11 Conspiracy Theorist for Harassing Dan Rather | NYU Local

  4. Pingback: 9/11 Nut Harasses Dan Rather, NYU ‘Bldg Guy’ Spits on Him | Nuts in NY - I Got Your Crazy New Yorkers Right Here

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